You bought a house in a tough
but picturesque neighborhood
straddling the river. Drinking gin
and tonic on your deck we watch
children swimming. A shot fired
from the far bank kills one. The others
scramble ashore and dash away
before the cops arrive. The body
floats downstream out of sight.
You look beatific with that smile—
but shouldn’t you be horrified?
I realize I’m smiling too,
inured to the daily violence.
We’re ready to enjoy ourselves,
although it has taken all our life
to appreciate the cunning
of nature: the plain geometry
of crystals and intersections,
the adhesiveness of lichen,
the eager physics of gunfire.
We slurp our drinks as gladly
as buffalo slurp a water hole.
Does anyone really outlive
their secret imperatives? The day
sickens as street lamps ignite
in that ugly shade of orange.
The police drive past, blue lights
raking the street, but the dead child
has drifted beyond jurisdiction,
so only his family will miss him.
As we rise to go indoors a scream
bullets across the rooftops
and crash-lands in your hair. You sweep
it off with a gesture of disdain
and we hustle to your living room,
slamming out the night. You live
alone by choice, preserving
your reconstructed virginity
for another lifetime. Thank you
for the drinks. I’m going home now,
and let’s hope the viscous orange light
doesn’t X-ray me too deeply,
revealing why we’re so alike.